Archive | May, 2012

Fads and Obsessions: Scripted Reality Bites

28 May

In my role as what passes for an amateur journalist these days, I’ve noticed that nobody does fads and obsessions quite like Britain.

For a start there is Brits’ preoccupation with the weather. This seems a shame as for much of the year Britain is known as “Europe’s car wash”. Though because good weather doesn’t come around very often, it does give Brits an enviable appreciation of the sunshine. Like the way I feel about eating lobster.

Then there’s the whole football (soccer) thing. I like football, and I wouldn’t mind this obsession if it didn’t encompass everything from game results right down to every player’s latest legal misdemeanour, or “team bonding session” (eeeeeeew!).

Which brings me neatly to the football player’s natural harvesting ground. Television. It seems that for a while now Britain has been gripped by something termed “scripted reality”. The chief offenders in this genre are shows you’ve probably heard of like The Only Way is Essex and Made in Chelsea. Or if you prefer your perfectly-framed reality with funny accents, Desperate Scousewives.

To give you an idea of what the show looks like (if by some happy chance you’ve managed to avoid this assault on intelligence), here is a shot of a typical scene.

Realising she’d bought ebony shoes instead of black, and would have to return them.

I’ve also taken the liberty of transcribing a passage of scintillating dialogue. I can’t be bothered finding out the names of these “real script readers”, so they’ll be called Burberry 1 and Burberry 2:

Burberry 1: I might try these on but I don’t know what size to get.

Burberry 2: What size are you normally?

Burberry 1: I’m a size nine but I might get a size seven.

Burberry 2: Why?

Burberry 1: It’ll straighten ’em out so they look proper fresh.

Burberry 2: Is that what you do, buy ’em smaller so they don’t crease?

Burberry 1: Yeah but everyone does that don’t they?

Burberry 2: No.

I wish I could say I made that up myself. Anyway, it seems to me the whole idea of reality is that its unscripted. Surely another name for “scripted reality” is a term that’s been bandied about the industry for a few years now. Drama. Though I’m sure we could think of a more accurate and less flattering one if we tried.

 

If you’re going to simulate reality, you best know and understand the subtle differences between reality and drama. For instance, here is a “scripted reality” meeting between myself and Noel Gallagher:

ME: Hey Noel, can I get a photo?

NOEL: Hey man, yeah why not? In fact, come down to our hotel with us for a pint and meet some women with questionable morals.

ME: Nah mate, I would but I’ve gotta get back to write a travel blog entry. Those Ludacris links don’t put themselves in there, ya know.

NOEL: Come on man, you can come to the gig later and hang backstage with us!

ME: Do you have wifi?

NOEL: Yeah.

ME: Alright then.

(Exeunt)

 

To highlight the difference, here is what happened in reality:

ME: Hey Noel, can I get a photo?

NOEL: Fuck no.

 

TV drama connoisseurs will no doubt have picked the subtle differences, the rest of us are stuck in blissful ignorance of what’s real and what’s “scripted real”.

 

Safe travels, thanks for reading. J

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Voluntary Servitude: My Festival of Giving

24 May

I like to consider my life a positive whirlwind of activity. If I’m ever at a metaphorical loose end, I feel compelled to metaphorically tie it so I don’t trip and fall flat on my face in steaming cesspool of metaphorical inactivity.

By this I mean I usually end up at Starbucks thinking of tenuous ways to crowbar Ludacris links in to a travel blog.

Nevertheless I have even more exciting news! Continuing my love affair with the great nation of Denmark I have decided to do some volunteer work there. Coupled with my environmentally conscious bicycle travel here in London, I’m assuming some sort of Nobel Prize is just around the corner.

There are many ways a person may devote themselves or their time to others in need:

  • some people travel to remote African villages to dig clean water wells;
  • some teach English to underprivileged kids in Cambodia;
  • others run, swim, cycle or personal transport unicycle astronomical distances on a nice Sunday when they should be hungover;
  • and still more devote themselves to fellow humans by badgering the living shit out of them on Oxford Circus until they either send a £2 text message or sign over the deed to their house.

My approach is slightly different . For me, volunteer work involves going to a famous Danish rock festival (Roskilde) and serving alcohol to those who need to drink to enjoy themselves and are not “just there for the music”.

Of course I’m only going so that I may keep the great people of Denmark, and probably other countries, hydrated. When I signed up I didn’t even know that I’d get festival entry, some food, all drinks AND a T-shirt. I assume the T-shirt will carry the obligatory sexual double entendre:In any case, it’s a whole lot more helpful to mankind than the people on Oxford Circus and any other area with high pedestrian traffic. Though I’m told many of them actually get paid to accost me despite the fact I have earphones in and am clearly already occupied working out how to get to the M&Ms store. Stay tuned for a review of the M&Ms store.

But I digress (douchy writer speak for “I can’t be bothered complaining anymore”). My summer is actually shaping up pretty well. Not only that, the weather finally seems to be on the turn here in London. As such, I’m planning to debut my summer writer’s outfit very soon:

Yes the wrinkles are meant to be there, duh!

Safe travels, thanks for reading. J

Ich Bin Ein “Travel” Journalist! Berlin is an Uber-must

20 May

Welcome back once again loyal readers! Hello also to those people who’ve inexplicably managed to navigate here despite not being my Facebook friend.

Unfortunately my bank balance and Mayan calendar still tells me it’s “toiling season” and I must stick around London and work.

Pictographs of Chuck Norris have been found in the ruins of all major ancient civilisations.

Therefore once again we go back in time to when I was in another place. This time it’s Berlin.

It’s long since I or anyone has been able to use the term “über-cool” without sounding like a total über-douche. I’m not sure I pull it off here either, but Berlin is without doubt “über-cool.”

I should point out at this point that the cities of the world are locked in constant battle to become my favourite city. The title is second only in prestige to hosting the Olympics, and Australia recently abandoned its bid for the 2018 FIFA World Cup so they could spend more money on sausages and bike paths to attract my favour.

Anyway, the point is that Berlin still holds the coveted title of my favourite city in the world. There are many reasons for this, therefore I am pleased to offer you yet another time-saving list. This one is my top reasons why Berlin is somehow greater than head-mounted toilet paper:

1. The list really needs only one entry, and here it is. They have TABLE TENNIS in night clubs! Why this hasn’t become a worldwide phenomenon I’ve no idea.

2. If that didn’t convince you to book flights straight away, there’s also some very impressive landmarks. Now most reputable travel blogs would show you real pictures of the landmarks. But this being a self-styled “travel” blog I’d rather present them in chocolate form.

Chocolate Reichstag

Chocolate Brandenburg Gate

3. Bars like Weinerei bar in East Berlin which offer a “pay whatever the hell you think it’s worth” system. Basically, you get a glass for 1 Euro and then drink and drink and drink from a selection of wines on a central table. At the end there is a huge jar where you drop whatever you think you owe. The fact that this system works anywhere at all restores my faith in the human race.

4. They’re not afraid to be creative with their less-proud landmarks of history. There are sections of the Berlin Wall left totally in tact which are worth a look too, but some have been opened up to street art. Less “über-cool” cities would not do this.

5. I was going to mention the table tennis again but I’ll finish on a serious note. I love the Jewish Memorial in Berlin. It’s been criticised by some, perhaps for being too ambiguous, but that’s what I really like about it. I’ll leave it up to you to decide what you think it means, but you really should go there and have a wander through yourself.

I know it was hard to imagine, but hopefully you now agree that Berlin is better than head-mounted toilet paper.

Safe travels, thanks for reading. über-J

Call that a Drought? THIS is a Drought!

15 May

I’ve heard many ludicrous claims over the years (not to be confused with Ludacris claims). For instance, a friend of mine once told me that “man, Bowling For Soup are gonna be the next big thing!”

My usual reaction to such claims sits somewhere between humour and disinterest, mainly because I want to get back to talking about how The Knack were harshly done by. But when the source of the claim is a reputable news outlet, I generally take notice and reach for my douchy writing notebook. On this occasion it was the BBC’s assertion that much of Britain is in the grips of drought.

Britain? Drought? At this point I thought it much more likely that I’d misheard and Britain was actually beset by trout:

This may be a dramatisation

However, it turned out I’d in fact heard correctly, and much of the UK has experienced two years of below average rainfall. Now back in Oz, as this guy will tell you, we do two things right. Hunting knives and droughts. I’m not saying Britain isn’t in drought, but I’d implore most Brits to have a little perspective and not start beating your water drums until you’ve had over a DECADE of below average rainfall.

When water restrictions prevent you from crying without spreading the tears on your chrysanthemums, then you’re in a bit of trouble.

Luckily Britain has some cool, calm and collected heads down at the water department. And they’ve managed to employ the “irony technique” to combat this crisis. This approach consisted of introducing a “hosepipe ban” a little while back. Since it didn’t stop raining for a month thereafter, I can only assume this was a direct (and ironic) consequence of introducing the ban. Another job well done.

In other information that will pad out the rest of this post interesting news, I’ve decided a decent bicycle trip is in order for me this summer. Given the opportunity to say so, none of my friends or family think this is a bad enough idea to tell me not to do it. That, or everyone back home is too busy watching The Voice. 

In any case my only choice now is to go ahead and ride from London to Dover. From there I will undertake a Top Gear-style challenge and attempt to convert my bicycle in to a pedal-powered jet-ski (or take a ferry, whichever costs less). Upon arriving in Calais I will then reassemble my bike and use nothing but my croissant-fuelled legs to power me towards Brugge and possibly Brussels. If I don’t land a job as a Belgian beer/chocolate taster within 72 hours, I’ll probably make my way back as well.

If it sounds foolhardy and ill-planned, that’s probably because it is.

Thanks for reading, safe travels. J

Why Travel? Who cares? Just do it!

12 May

No doubt you’ve been looking forward to the resumption of regular posting here. I know the feeling. Since I was too young for Vanilla Ice the first time round, I knew my life would never be complete until I knew he was back performing ‘Ninja Rap‘ to live audiences again.

I’m almost never one to let complete laziness stand in my way though. So despite my best efforts to the contrary, this past few days I’ve been doing some serious journalistic contemplation (thinking). Not just about what happened to the career of Joshua Jackson (as so often plagues my thoughts), but about the reasons us humans travel.

I’m not just talking about my general aversion to anything approaching real life responsibility, every Australian in London has that. I’ve been contemplating the type of travelers we are, as illustrated by the things we do when we travel to new places.

I recently used my “tweeting feed” to inform loyal followers that this is the reason I travel:

I applaud the use of sustainable wood blocks rather than conventional plates.

It may seem slightly excessive to travel several thousand kilometres and various time zones for a coffee and croissant. Fair enough too, but we all have different reasons to travel and I don’t have to explain myself to you or anyone. Leave me alone. My reason to travel is food. On the other hand Lil Jon travels the world in search of the finest Crunk Juice.

I’m told to this day, the best can be found high in the Tibetan mountains where “Crunk Monks” extract it from a natural spring.

Others travel for the history. I most certainly appreciate this, but for me this is best in small doses and preferably when it is not annoyingly touristy (“no I don’t want to buy a replica you’ve fashioned out of match sticks.”)

Still more travel for the social aspect. This is one of my favourite reasons to travel, and comes second only to food as far as I’m concerned. After all, what better way to get to know people than to sit around a cheap hostel sinking (insert cheapest drink here)? These people will be friends for life and a source of free accommodation in whichever city it is they inhabit. They’re most likely fantastic people too (you all know who you are).

Sadly there is one reason some people travel that is less fun than an hour of power with Crunk Juice. That is the people who travel only so they can tell others how awesome their travels were. I’m well aware of the irony of writing this on a public internet weblog, but at least you have the choice of navigating to something more interesting.

I love swapping travel stories and hearing about others’ experiences, but some people tend to want to crowbar their travel stories in to any and every conversation. I’m sure they were awesome, so was Vanilla Ice. But crucially, I choose to talk about Mr. Ice only when I know my audience is interested in white, early 90s rap.

 

Word to your mothers, safe travels. J

Being Unfaithful: Trying to Keep My Words to Myself

8 May

An exceptionally short post today because I’ve no wish to assault your minds with more words than necessary. That is, after I tell you of my recent foray in to actual travel writing and not the usual “travel” writing I’ve become so unwell-known for.

Far be it from me to cross-promote, this is not like the times where “current affairs” programs find ingenious ways to crowbar the upcoming season of Dancing with the Stars in to the news. Although come to think of it, Boris Johnson has just been re-elected as the Mayor of London. He likes bicycles. In fact here is a picture of him using a bike and a handy disguise to avoid his wife.

Coincidentally, my post that you can find at the upcoming link is also about bicycles and the best things to do on them in London. You can find it here: http://www.gotsaga.com/review_saga_pics/5474

I’ve a terrible fear that the post will break my six-minute promise. But seeing as it is on another site, I have no intention of buying any homeless people wearable tents. Sorry if that makes no sense but if you go back and read a few posts, it should all become clear.

 

Safe travels, thanks for reading. J

Ahoy! Nautical News and the Power of Suggestion

5 May

I have some exciting news for you today. That is, exciting to almost everyone who is me. I have, with almost no assistance, booked the first of my summer travels! “Hooray!” I can hear almost no one screaming. But if you’re interested, I’ve booked a trip to sail the southern coast of Turkey for a week before quickly making my way to Istanbul to fly back to “sunny” London.

One thing travel has taught me though is that a life spent in denial of the real world throws up endless choices. For example, a pressing concern of mine at the moment is whether to purchase this outfit for sailing Turkey:

Too “village people”?

Or this:

Not “village people” enough? Commands more respect though.

And just when I was about to curl up on the floor from the agony of deciding, I found this as well:

“Aaaarrr, I spy a beach party off the starboard bow. Let’s Shanghai us some Bacardi Breezers.”

Never mind, I’ll consult my Ouija board. My next dilemma is also related to an abundance of choice. You see, when you live in Australia you’re kind of isolated. So limited was my knowledge of the world that until recently I thought Ecuador was a really long, thin country that ran around the middle of the Earth.

In any case my eyes are now open to the world and are currently seeing, and planning to see, much of what it has to offer. The problem is that I am in the process of planning my summer and there are too many offerings. It’s not so hard when you’re in Australia. Given that you can be on a plane for four hours and still be in Australia, the choices for shorter holidays are slightly more limited (don’t get me wrong though, Australia is awesome).

If you haven’t already navigated away from this page in disgust thinking “that’s a pretty good problem to have, jerk”, I salute you. I may not have been so patient.

Anyway as problems go, I realise this one probably isn’t high on your “to solve” list. If in fact you even have a “to solve” list. That doesn’t make it any less of a problem for me though. So given that I know plenty of you have been to Europe at some point, I would love you to comment below with your favourite ever thing(s) to do there.

Whether you’re a loyal reader, disloyal reader, or in an “open relationship” with other blogs, I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you do, I promise I will send you hearty “chunk duce” wherever you are in the world.

 

Safe travels and thanks for reading. J